Summary: As the disciples face the reality that the One who loved & accepted them unconditionally will soon be leaving, Jesus assures them that his love & acceptance will continue through the Spirit, if they will also love as Christ loves them.
Almost 35 years ago, the NBC news affiliate in Knoxville started a special news segment that ran once a week called, “Monday’s Child.” Every Monday, this unique segment featured the story of a child, usually a little older and usually with some sort of special needs or other handicap, who was available for adoption. The segment launched just a few weeks after I was born, and I remember very well growing up with that segment running weekly on the news. There’s a similar program on the NBC affiliate here in Chattanooga called, “Forever Family.” Of course, the idea is that by giving these children wider exposure, someone will step forward to adopt them.
Now, I don’t know about you, but watching those segments really tugs at your heartstrings. The children always share some of their story, and some of their hopes and dreams. The boys long for a Dad or brothers who will play ball with them. The girls hope for a sister who likes to play dress-up. Some of the children want help with their schoolwork, and some of the children say they want parents that aren’t too strict. As with all individuals, each of these children is unique. But I think in every segment that I have ever seen, and probably in every segment that has ever aired, the child shares his or her wish to find a family that will give them pure love. They may not say it exactly that way, but it comes across in one way or another during their interviews. And can you blame them? These are children that have grown up without any stability. They have probably moved in and out of group homes or foster homes dozens of times. They’ve attended different schools and had to establish different routines. Since they are beyond the stage of infancy, many of them are aware that they were abandoned, and they struggle with feelings of self-worth. It’s the plight of many orphans, really; those constant, nagging questions. Am I not good enough? Does nobody love me? Perhaps it is looking at the world through these young eyes that we can truly feel the impact of Jesus’ words when he says, “I won’t leave you as orphans.”
Jesus told the disciples many times that a day would come when he would no longer be with them. And in chapter 13, just before the passage we heard this morning, Jesus says, “The hour has come.” What follows that statement, part of which we heard this morning, is Christ’s attempt to bring comfort and assurance to his disciples who are reeling from the news of his impending departure. We have to remember, these followers left their entire lives behind when Christ called them. They quit their jobs. They left their homes and their families. They had given all of themselves to Christ, and in return, he had given all of himself to them. He taught them how to be better people, and showed them how to live as the children of God. Some of those disciples probably felt that Jesus was the first person to really understand them. Or maybe they received from him the sort of unconditional love they had been longing for their whole lives. And now Jesus has told them he will not be with them for much longer; their source of stability for the last three years, their pillar and strength, is leaving them. Some of those gathered disciples must have thought to themselves, “Jesus is abandoning us.”
As always, though, Jesus is quite perceptive. He is acutely aware of the fears of the disciples, and so he knows exactly what they need to hear. “I will not leave you orphaned. I am coming to you.” It is the seal of the promise that came before: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Companion, to be with you forever.” Certainly, Jesus is speaking to the disciples in that moment, but he is also addressing one of our deepest longings as humans; the desire for companionship, for acceptance, and love. And what he is telling us is that we can have that for our whole lives and even more, forever. How is it possible? Because of the “Companion,” the Spirit of truth that God will send to us through the appeal of Jesus. And it’s not just that this is a companion that is with us, but Jesus tells us that this Spirit, this Advocate, this Companion will actually be IN us!
Here are these deflated, scared disciples, feeling abandoned by the One whom they had given all of themselves to. And now, he tells them that he will send a Companion to be with them forever. And as he describes this Spirit of truth, we see that Jesus’ promise is not just an abstract generalization describing some warm, fuzzy feeling. He’s actually telling the disciples that through this Spirit, Christ himself will dwell in them! He will not leave them as orphans, he loves them, and through the Spirit he will live as their Companion forever!